A Mason City man who served in a heavy equipment maintenance company in Vietnam considers himself a proud veteran.
“When my country called me, I didn’t run and hide like some did,” said Jim Farghum. “I showed up and served.”
The Globe Gazette will publish 50 stories — starting on Veterans Day — about North Iowa’s Vietnam Veterans. The stories will appear on Sundays…
Farghum was stationed outside Da Nang for 11 months, where he says he worked more in supply than he did as a mechanic.
Before being drafted, he "did a little bit of everything" while working at a local Chevy dealership, which led to his position in the military.
"I wasn't really a mechanic, but that's what they put me down as," he said.
The company’s first compound was next to the Marble Mountain, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills. Across the road was a prisoner of war camp run by south Vietnamese, which supposedly held north Vietnamese soldiers.
Farghum was told someone broke into the camp to help the prisoners escape, but they didn't want to leave.
“They were better off in prison, I guess,” he said. "The conditions there were better than living underneath a tree."
Since their compound was located near a Marine chopper base, the men on guard duty would often watch Marine patrols sneak away in the cover of darkness and return about dawn.
Although the company didn’t experience combat, Farghum said they would be shot at occasionally or would see rockets passing overhead, aimed at the Marine base.
“Once in a while, one would land short,” he said. “We were in the line of fire, so that would cause some excitement.”
The company’s second compound overlooked a river valley, with rice paddies everywhere. A constant week of rain flooded the entire valley, but Farghum said his group was high enough the water didn’t reach them.
During his last few months in the country, Farghum served as the Army representative at the Philco-Ford tire recapping plant, where he says the boss was American, the supervisors Korean and the workers Vietnamese.
“It was an interesting combination to observe in action, but it worked,” he said.